“Semper Paratus”, (Latin for “Always Ready”), is the motto of the United States Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is in a constant state of readiness to respond emergencies, from boaters in distress to major disasters. Hospitals, much like the Coast Guard, must always be ready when disasters occur, whether natural or man-made.
During October, which brings recognition of, and appreciation for, the work of Healthcare Security and Safety Officers, we’d like to educate our community about what we do in that realm at Lompoc Valley Medical Center (LVMC).
LVMC has a Core Safety Committee consisting of members from different departments and disciplines that meet on a regular basis to assure that the organization is in the best position to respond to any disaster, big or small. To that end, LVMC conducts safety reviews and drills on a regular basis and are in ongoing contact with our peers through our local Santa Barbara County Disaster Healthcare Partners Coalition.
Disaster takes all forms – whether it’s a wildfire coming over the hills and prompting evacuation readiness; or the smoke from a fire more than 50 miles away that drenched our community in a layer of smoke and ash. While we were not directly impacted by the Thomas Fire in December 2017, we were able to join forces with Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Direct Relief, Lompoc CERT and Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization to hand out free N-95 air masks to residents. We handed out approximately 20,000 masks to people impacted by the disaster, showing our readiness to help when needed.
Recently, Registered Nurse Ryan Stevens, manager of the LVMC Emergency Department and I attended the annual disaster planning symposium conducted by the California Hospital Association in Sacramento. The subject matter focused largely on hospital responses to the numerous wildfires that have taken place in the last year. Two of these fires were the largest in California history; the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties and the recent Mendocino Complex fire in northern California. In attending, our goal was to learn from the experiences of others who lived through these events and to implement their lessons learned into our own preparedness as an organization. We also heard from responders to other traumatic disasters, such as recent hurricanes in the Atlantic and the mass shooting event of Oct. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas and the Patriots Day bombing in Boston in 2013.
The breadth of the conference was meant to cover virtually every aspect of preparedness. There were sessions on cyberattack and the impact of ransomware; preparing a rural hospital for evacuation during a fire and the physical, emotional and psychological impact of crisis preparedness and response among many more options.
As the safety officer at LVMC, it is my responsibility to assure that our safety policies and procedures are up-to-date and to assure, both with the Core Safety Committee and everyone associated with LVMC, that we are at a constant state of readiness to respond to the needs of the Lompoc community when disaster strikes.